The Ninja Network

Drawing Dragons

I sat staring at a blank page of paper on and off for days, trying to decide what to pen as my resolution for 2015. I needed it to be precise and concise and confine my fantastic plans to few words.

Full of nothing and in need of inspiration, I called on a Ninja. Jen said yes – Ninjas are like that – and we met for supper.

“I’m stuck,” I said, one hand hovering over the bowl of corn chips, the other gesturing wildly at the universe. “I have so much to finish and I don’t know where to start. Super stuck. I can’t even write my stupid New Year’s Resolution.”

“Draw a dragon.” Jen nodded at me with wisdom and surety.


“Every time Jonah asks me what he should draw, I say ‘Draw a dragon.’ And then he says ‘No, I can’t draw a dragon, I don’t know where to start or what it will finish like.’”

Jonah is Jen’s kid. He’s an excellent example of 10-year-old boy. He likes treasure and zombies. And he likes to draw. Once he drew me a Fridge Ninja. It’s on my fridge.

“Finally I told him, ‘Just start. Just start drawing dragons and by the time you finish, you’ll know how to draw dragons. Then you can draw dragons anytime you like. Like right now. Because your mamma wants a dragon. Draw me a dragon.’ And he did.”

“How was it?” I asked, enraptured.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 3.15.42 PM

Jonah’s first dragon. Perfect.
I’m pretty sure that’s a Ninja riding it. Also perfect.

Read more →

Yes! Girls are Ninjas too!

Every once in awhile, while I continue to percolate on the edit for The Ninja Network book, I get a note from someone who has been patiently waiting for publication… reminding me of the potent power of Ninja.

Today’s provocation, from a parent:
“My kids are very into Ninjago (Lego ninjas) right now. They’ve been playing the video games and watching the movie and we suddenly realized that there are no females.  When my daughter asked if a girl can be a ninja, I could say without hesitation – absolutely yes!  They seem to make the best ninjas I know.  All your fault. Thanks.”
~ Jess, parent of “boy child” and “girl child”, aged 4andahalfno5 and almost7.

Seemed only fitting Jess’ kids be inducted as Ninja-in-Training.

Aware ~ Brave ~ Curious ~ Discreet ~ Encouraging ~ Focused ~ Generous ~ Helpful ~ Interested ~ Jovial ~ Kind ~ Loving ~ Masterful ~ Noble ~ Observant ~ Patient ~ Quick ~ Reliable ~ Strong ~ Virtuous ~ Willing ~ eXpert ~ Youthful ~ Zestful

The Ninja Network is all about bringing your gift and deploying it boldly.  Being aware, confident, responsible, grateful, and having at least one adventure every day.

Who can be Ninja?  Girls, Boys, Parents, Kids, Friends, Co-workers, Neighbors, Pets… quite frankly, everyone.  Every. Single. One.

Especially kitties.  Ninja Kitties.

So well trained in what we do, that we can help you.

Focus, Flexibility, Fulcrum & the F-word

I try not to say the F-word too often. The F-word is considered impolite. I know that. Good manners go a long way. (Number 7 of #47ThingsILearned.) But we all have those F-word days. Frustrating.

I see stasis as a symptom of frustration. The world goes wonky. I find myself fixated. Sometimes I will sit, stuck, struggling with “not doing”, in stare down against the object of my irritation.

We’ve all done it. Said over and over: “I’m not going to ‘fill-in-the-blank’”. Eat chips. Worry. Spend too much. Be too alone. Over and over we find ourselves chanting the mantra of what we don’t want, until it becomes a one-way neural path to neurotic disappointment.

When we feel let down we slow down. Set limits. Stasis sets in.

Sometimes, instead of the F-word, I dig a little deeper into my vocabulary for something better.

FLEXIBLITY: The elastic capacity to bounce back, the momentum to move, and newfound FOCUS.

We keep going because we keep going. (Number 39 of #47ThingsILearned.) What we need is a nudge: a shift of focal length, a happy button to punch, and lever to lift us up.

“A Lever of the First Kind is one in which the fulcrum is between the power and the weight… where F represents the fulcrum, P the power, and W the weight.” – Quackenbos 1859

George Payn Quackenbos was a smart cookie.  I commandeered his concept for our community:

“A lever of the Ninja Network Kind… is one in which our lives pivot positively… where F represents a better future, P the people who propel us, and W a world brought back into balance.” – Ebbert 2012

Hang up the hang-ups and hit the happy button, transitioning focus from “not doing fill-in-the-blank” to filling in the blank with wonderful DOING. As in “Watch THIS! I can DO!”

We can do anything good.

Where, you may ask, is this happy button we’re supposed to hit?  Look at the speed dial on your phone. Populate those spaces with the names of the people who propel you, your Ninjas. Punch in their numbers.  You get it, you got it, go get ’em!


Keep Calm and Ninja On

Editing a book is a roller coaster of love.  Some days are lofty and divine, each word floating into place with a satisfying series of keyboard clicks.  Some days there is a plunging feeling, sotto-voce screaming, and tossing bombastic words overboard like ballast.

My mantra?  Keep Calm and Ninja On.

Writing The Ninja Network is an HONOR I take to heart, because it is from my heart.  Thanks for hanging in there with me, while I get it good enough for Mighty & Awesome YOU!

Here is a bit from the most recent text:

Ninjas are the result of in-person collisions I call “nuclear proaction”:  
the sparks of life that ensue when you throw yourself wholeheartedly into the midst of community, making connection points and transitioning to new ways of being.

Proactive Proof of Nuclear Ninja Kapow!
Image capture, Ryan Haro.

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

“Here. Hold HappyBug. This won’t take long.”

HappyBug is happy. I try not to squeeze all the stuffing out of HappyBug. Try to be stalwart. Strong. HappyBug is still happy, considering I’m squeezing pretty darn hard.

HappyBug is Happy

HappyBug is happy.
(psst – click photo to find “The Basket of Happy”)

“HappyBug is happy,” I mutter to myself through gritted teeth while I breathe deeply and suck it up, “because HappyBug doesn’t have to get a SHOT.”

I am disinclined to be inoculated.

The nurse guffaws, pattern-interrupting my bad attitude. I glance down at HappyBug’s smiling gaze as she dabs my arm with a bit of gauze and gives me a cartoon band-aid. My grimace turns to a grin. I loosen up. I remember I am loved.

This year, I didn’t want a shot. Didn’t want to wait in line. Didn’t want to pay $35 or pretend to be brave. Didn’t care a whit or a fiddle whether or not I catch the flu.

I got a shot. Because my mom loves me, and it made her happy.

In my book, Mom is NinjaNumberOne. She made me, and takes great care to keep me safely moving on a trajectory of success. NinjaNumberOne says:

1. Always wear your seatbelt.
2. Don’t lay out in the sun.
3. Never ever ever eat donuts.
4. Get a flu shot.

Mom taught me early on – always wear your seatbelt.
(psst – click photo for the beautiful Embrace Life video.)

Last year, I was compelled, against my will and at the last possible minute, to suffer a flu shot. I got shanghaied, strapped in the car, and exactly what I deserved for dawdling. The prehistoric pharmacist intent on administering the dose hovered over me, wheezing like an interrogation droid on the Death Star. I glowered in the corner, chin stubbornly set, a resolute and resistant rebel princess. It took an eternity for him to cross the examination room and painstakingly plunge what felt like a pike into my arm.

I actually had to put a shout out to my Star Wars fan friends:
“What is the name of float-y round thing with the shots that Darth Vader used to threaten / interrogate Princess Leia?”
Apparently it is an IT-O interrogation droid. Eeek!
(psst – click photo for dancing Stormtroopers and Weird Al.)


It wasn’t that bad.  My mom was happy, and bought me an iced cream.

HONOR is bringing it full circle, respecting the investment of affection our Ninjas have made in our wellbeing, and taking care of ourselves so we can be of service to others.

Who loves ya, baby?

O say, can you soothsay? The Ninjascope.

Predicting the future feels a bit like predicting the weather. Without the sagacity of a professional, it’s dicey. Weatherman is not a job for me…everyone is watching…that’s a high-pressure system.

Brick Tamland from "Anchorman" as portrayed by Steve Carell.

Brick Tamland from “Anchorman” as portrayed by Steve Carell.

For the last several days, we’ve been stuck to the live stream of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, waiting to see how the storm would play out on the Eastern Seaboard. Occasionally friends conserving their batteries power up and post, to keep us posted:

“hunkered down and hoping for the best.”
“candelabras and victrolas in the west village. weathering the storm in style.”

From a distance, we didn’t get much more. A few words. Then the power went out. Powerless, the world felt bigger when we lost connection.

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy kept the world watching and waiting. October 2012.

Often, to the irritation of our anticipation, we have to wait until something is over to find out what happened. I get it. That’s time passing and how history is made.

And still I get anxious, jump the gun, lose my patience, page forward to sneak a peek at the last paragraph in the book. And work myself into hysterics about horoscopes. In not-so-subtle ways I become like a ship adrift on a stormy sea, bobbing directionless in the face of an unproven prediction.

I should not read my horoscope before the month is over. I infer. I worry. I sit up nights like a ninny. At the end of October I know I shouldn’t have gazed into the predictive crystal ball of November, but I did. My November horoscope was simultaneously murky and manic to the effect of “TIE UP ALL THE LOOSE ENDS!”, which of course made me a nervous nit. I have a LOT of loose ends!

Flummoxed and  fussing, I posted my frustrations online to my Ninja Network.

Then NinjaOohLaLa posited, “How about having one of your ninjas write your horoscope from now on?”

Brilliant. Let the folks I KNOW help illuminate the path.

And LogicNinja opined: “Your future has nothing proximate to do with the locations of the stars and planets (unless you’re about to get clobbered by a heretofore undiscovered meteorite). Rather, your future is determined by more proximate causes, primarily, your own mind and its desires. You’ll work towards a goal to the extent you desire the goal, and to the extent you desire to engage in the work needed to reach that goal. Your unique goals and desires are probably not fully known to you, though you might be able to infer what they are from your past performance.”

Precisely. RELY on collaborators in community to help set my compass star.

So… I will ask my Ninjas. Shall we change from horoscope to Ninjascope? Yes, we decided. Let’s do that. Here’s my interpretation:

noun ˈnɪndʒə-ˌskōp

Definition of NINJASCOPE
: a discovery of the fascinating qualities of friends and the events in their lives for use in predicting what mighty and awesome adventures might occur next (aka taking active interest in your Ninja Network)
: a ninjalogical forecast (aka the kind of inspiring note you’d write if you were charged with crafting a prediction of the future or “best next steps” for your Ninja)

The Ninjascope

A Ninjascope is a course charted with the assistance of NINJAS!

Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to post below an interesting Ninjascope that someone might adopt. Bright and hopeful futures welcome.

You get it. You got it. Go get ’em.

P.S. This update just in from optimistic voices on the east coast:
“Power back on this morning just before 6…enjoying ability to shower, eat, and check Facebook! Hoping everyone else is doing okay….”

You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night.
Step into the sun, step into the light.
Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place on the face of the earth or the sky.
Hold onto your breath, hold onto your heart, hold onto your hope.
March up to the gate and bid it open.
~Lyrics from “Optimistic Voices”, The Wizard of Oz

Ninja Anniversary. Fab Four.

Today is the fourth anniversary of my unexpected induction into The Ninja Network. Today there will be celebration. I expect happy weeping. Perhaps some gleeful screaming. Conceivably, a chance of giddy fainting. Celebration. Maybe a cupcake. Four. Four is fab. Four is a good long time.

Way back a long time ago (1965 to be precise) there was happy weeping and gleeful screaming. Giddy fainting and packed performances. The occasion was fans finding another Fab Four anthem for a culture built on community.  The Beatles’ song “Help!” hit the airwaves, and became instantly chart-topping popular.  (Click here to hear the song and view the Fab Four being 1965-esque adorable.)

I couldn’t have cared a whit or a fiddle. The Beatles weren’t my cup of tea back in 1965. Not because they weren’t adorable and talented and compelling, but because I was so much younger then; a newborn actually. I expect I was more interested in sleeping. And eating. And sleeping some more. I bet I rocked “Rock-a-Bye Baby”, back in the day.

When I was a bit older – somewhere between the childhood moment of standing for my first unassisted steps and the many years later when my illusions that I could handle it all by myself came crashing down – I built a fortress of self-assurance. And isolation.

Not the super-swell fort you make when you’re look-at-me-I’m-four-years-old out of all the couch cushions dragged together, under a blanket, where you snuggle in and browse your beloved comic book while enjoying a juice box and the leftover Halloween candy. No, not that one. The super-sucky fort you make when you’re when-did-I-get-to-be-forty out of all the crappy bad self-talk, under the dining room table, where you isolate and lurk on Facebook while weeping over a box of cheap wine and the leftover mashed potatoes.

“I got this,” I told myself over and over. “I’m a grown-up. I got this.”  But the older I got, the more I found the world big, fast, overwhelming, intimidating, and lonely.

Then one day I got it. We aren’t intended to be isolated. A Ninja came and got me. Four years ago today. I let go of being alone, grabbed the hand held out for help, and haven’t looked back.

It was like a door opening to a new panorama, that day I peeked out from my fortress of isolation.

What is a Ninja? From my perspective, Ninjas are not stealthy mercenaries robed in inky-black and sneaking up behind your back to dispatch you to sweet oblivion. Ninjas are the people we know and rely on to take our hand and pull us from the wreckage of our illusions and our isolation. The people we trust who honor us by helping craft the anthem of a mighty and awesome community.

“Life needs to be lived in community, because we’re all at different stages.
We’re not meant to do this alone.”
~ Blessed Mari of the Margaritas, from the book The Ninja Network

The Beatles’ song “Help!” crossed my consciousness today, and I took a minute to look up the lyrics:

The Beatles ... Help!

“Ninja Invasion” – A rarely seen interpretation of the back cover of The Beatles’ album “Help!”

Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know I need someone, help.

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now those days are gone, I’m not so self-assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please, please help me.

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
My independence seems to vanish in the haze.
But every now and then I feel so insecure,
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please, please help me.
Won’t you please, please help me, help me, help me, oh.

Seems like a good anthem for today.

an·them noun ˈan(t)-thəm
Definition of ANTHEM
: a usually rousing popular song that typifies or is identified with a particular subculture, movement, or point of view

I need somebody. Not just anybody. I need NINJAS!

Who helps you get your feet back on the ground?  Who do you appreciate being ’round?  Who are your NINJAS?  Make a list.  No really.  Go get a pen.  I’ll wait. … Got it?  Good.  First, write the names of your Ninjas.  Next, program their names into your speed dial.  Now, call each one and let them know that YOU NEED NINJAS!  

To mine I happily, gleefully, giddily shout out: THANK YOU NINJAS!  (I love you more than cupcakes!!!)

If we were all in London, I’d take you to Crumbs and Doilies for these adorable Beatles cupcakes!